Every entrepreneur likes to start with a generic and .com-extension domain, but it is not always possible. That is why entrepreneurs are forced to expand the domain that they want with various extensions, perform domain hacking or choose a domain with an extension other than com.
You may think that mainly because domain names with .com extensions are running out this is only true for new companies, but you are wrong. Top technology companies whose domains we know by heart today were also using different domains when they were first started-up. Such that, there are companies that were established 10-20 years ago and had changed their first domains because they were not generic. Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are only some of the examples that can be given on this matter. Not to mention that it is not easy to undergo such a change; especially your brand strength and revenue have to be over a certain level. We are sharing with you ten different domain change stories below and expect your comments.
Photo sharing app Instagram that was bought in 2012 by Facebook, served without a web interface for a long time but of course, it had a website. The venture that uses instagram.com today, was first using instagr.am domain. Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger who opened Instagram’s initial website using Armenia’s country code extension in October 2010, first passed on to a .com domain by obtaining instagram.com, and in the following years they acquired tens of other domains related to Instagram by opening various trademark infringement cases.
David Warthen and Garrett Gruener were visionaries as to open one of the first Q&A websites of the internet in 1996, but they lacked financial means to buy Ask.com. That is why in 1996 they realized their idea by using AskJeeves.com. Warthen and Gruener who chose a fictional story character Jeeves as their mascot switched to today’s Ask.com in 2006. With this transformation, they left their first brand along with the first domain and started to focus on a more appealing domain name, Ask.com.
When the world’s most extensive social network Facebook, with 1,5 billion active users today, was started up quietly in February 2004, Mark Zuckerberg could only buy thefacebook.com from his Harvard dorm room. Growing rapidly by tapping into the University database, Facebook simplified its design along with the domain in August 2005 and shifted to facebook.com. Although it is quite an early acquisition for Facebook, it is said on certain sources that this purchase was made for 200 thousand dollars. Facebook further consolidated its brand strength by getting face.com and fb.com.
One of the familiar faces of the media world, NBC News Digital, provided news on the internet through MSNBC.com by an agreement with Microsoft; but when in 2012 the deal was over, NBC turned to NBCNews.com. On the other hand, MSNBC.com was started to be used as the website for cable TV channel MSNBC. This update also affected the agreements in other countries. For instance, Turkey’s news website ntvmsnbc.com was moved to NTV.com.tr.
In 1998, Max Levchin, Peter Thiel, and Luke Nosek established a payment system and cryptography company called Confinity Inc. Before entering the market, Confinity’s milestone product Paypal merged with X.com that was established by Elon Musk who was not so popular back then; and Paypal was first opened for service with X.com domain. However, due to the mysterious nature and pornographic connotation of X.com Paypal Inc. was established as an independent firm and paypal.com was started to be used. Paypal was bought by ebay in 2002 and in 2015 it was positioned as a separate company. And paypal.com domain is still in use. In July 2017, Elon Musk bought back X.com because he said that the domain holds sentimental value for him.
One of the biggest technology enterprises, Google was the research project of Stanford University students Sergey Brin and Larry Page; in its initial stage, it started to operate with a subdomain named google.stanford.edu. Although Brin and Page have not taken the first step in the search engine market, they bought google.com in September 1997, and the following year Google.com went into service. At first, Brin and Page named their company BackRub in relation with ‘backlink’, but then they decided on setting up everything under the brand Google.
Microblogging website Twitter was originally established to send short status updates through SMS and was working with Twttr.com domain. In 2006, it bought Twitter.com for 7,500 dollars and paved the way for web-based growth. Today, Twitter.com is one of the most visited websites of the social network world, and you still can access Twitter through Twttr.com.
The richest person alive, Jeff Bezos knew what he wanted while he was establishing Amazon.com but the first domain he bought for this job was not Amazon.com. Awake.com, Browse.com, Bookmall.com
Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar’s first company was AuctionWeb, and the first domain he bought was AuctionWeb.com. But later on Omidyar replaced the original domain with a shorter one named ebay.com and he transformed this 4-letter domain into a brand that is known all around the world.
Among the trending start-ups of recent years, Buffer.com is another one that changed its domain name. Established by Joel Gascoigne and Leo Widrich, Buffer was first opened under bfffr.com but changed it for bufferapp.com after a short while. After the enterprise that was found in 2010 became a frontrunner in scheduling posts in social media, the duo of entrepreneurs bought buffer.com for 600 thousand dollars, after a two-year process.
How About Your Domain Names?
Of course, this list doesn’t include all the companies that changed their domains. Yet we know that many ventures simplified their domain names because they thought they would represent their respective companies better. There is no doubt these simplifications will go on. In the comments section, you may share the companies you know that changed their domains, or you may tell us about your story.
Things You Should Know About Changing Domain Names
To conclude, let us share these methods for those who think about changing domain names:
1) Shortening / getting rid of appendices: This means shortening a domain that was previously long.
Examples: thefacebook.com > facebook.com or bufferapp.com > buffer.com
2) Extending: The act of extending a domain that was used as an abbreviation.
Examples: Twttr.com > Twitter.com bfffr.com > buffer.com
3) Changing the Extension: Changing a domain that did not have .com extension due to domain hacking or some other reason, with a domain with .com extension.
Examples: instagr.am > instagram.com / .io extension domains’ shift to .com can be an example too.
4) Simplification: Simplifying the brand name through the domain.
Example: AskJeeves.com > Ask.com
5) Changing the Brand Name: Switching to another domain by changing the name of the company or the product.
Examples: AuctionWeb.com > ebay.com, X.com > paypal.com